Nigeria attains 30% broadband penetration
The target of attaining 30% Internet penetration was reached in December 2018, a goal set by the Federal Government, which the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and under the leadership of its Executive Vice Chairman, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, a professor of telecommunications engendering, worked hard to attain.
Broadband, or simply, high-speed internet, has been described by the World Bank as having the potential to accelerate the growth of a country’s economy, especially in developing countries such as Nigeria.
To give an accent to this, the Nigerian government instituted a presidential committee that came up with a target to increase broadband penetration in Nigeria, from 6 per cent, where it was in 2013 to 30 by end of December 2018.
Interestingly, Prof. Danbatta, was appointed in 2015 as the EVC of NCC at a time broadband penetration was barely scratching 8% threshold.
It said that on assuming office, the NCC management quickly put in place a strategic vision plan anchored on its 8-Point Agenda. Curiously, the need to facilitate broadband penetration tops the agenda and this was pursued vigorously by the Commission, with close monitoring of implementation of each of the issues on the agenda.
Other issues on the auspicious agenda aimed at driving pervasive access to telecoms services and by extension, access to high-speed internet include; improving quality of service, optimising the usage and benefits of spectrum, promoting investment opportunity and ICT innovation, facilitating strategic partnership and collaboration, protecting telecoms consumers, promoting fair competition and inclusive growth; and ensuring operational efficiency and regulatory excellence.
With thorough implementation of the eight items on the agenda, all culminating in improved and wider service access, the Commission did not only meet the 30 per cent broadband target but also surpassed it by December, 2018.
In fact, according to industry figures reported in the media, broadband peaked at 31.48 per cent in December 2018. It has since continued to grow higher as broadband penetration stood at 33 %.
But the question may be asked as to what the NCC’s meeting and surpassing of the broadband target by the end of last year mean for the country. Also, it is also agitates the mind to interrogate exactly the implication of the current steady growth in broadband penetration since beginning of this year.
It is important to put this in context. In Nigeria, most services in commerce, banking, agriculture, medicine, transportation, aviation and so on are becoming increasingly dependent on telecoms services, especially data/internet access.
The cashless economy we are currently trying to entrench in Nigeria with the use different e-payment platforms such as the Automated Teller Machine (ATM), Point of Sales (PoS), web-based payments, and mobile payment etc., is riding on telecoms infrastructure.
Banking services are Internet/data-dependent. Years before now, cases of poor ATM malfunctioning, inefficient online-transactions and so on were pervasive. Today, however, with increase in broadband penetration, banking experiences are getting better. In the past, cases of downtime are regular experiences in the banking industry. But with robust and deeper high-speed Internet facilitated by the NCC, downtime has become significantly minimal.
Suffice it to say that telecoms and, more specifically, broadband service has become an essential backbone for all other sectors of the economy. The banking sector is only an example of how broadband access has helped to transform each sector of the economy with improved productivity and efficiency.
Yet as the Internet speed and access have increased significantly in the country the cost is also bound to reduce as time goes on.
The latest report by the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) puts Nigeria, Egypt and Rwanda as the three countries in Africa offering cheapest tariffs. As at the end of 2018, A4AI ranked Nigeria as the second country after Egypt with the lowest Internet cost in Africa.
While the expectation to achieve ubiquitous broadband penetration is an ongoing concern, the actualisation and surpassing of the national broadband target of 30% by December 2018 speaks volume about quality leadership, regulatory excellence and unflinching commitment, which the regulator has entrenched in the system.
It is noteworthy that the NCC was able to achieve the target in spite all the various challenges confronting the industry. This ranges from poor public electricity for service providers to power telecoms infrastructure 24/7; multiple taxation and regulations; delay in securing Right-of-Way permits to licensees that wish to build more infrastructure; vandalism and equipment theft at sites, and so on and so forth.
One’s hope is that the NCC will not relent in putting emphasis on current initiatives aimed at making end-user experience more exceptional.
Olawuyi Adunola, a public sector analyst, writes from Ibadan, Oyo State.